Wheels. No matter how young or old you are, these Bronze Age inventions not only represent freedom; they provide it. From your first tricycle to your first car or truck and everything in between, wheels take you where you want to go faster (and in better style) than you could get there on your own. So it’s not surprising that Americans are crazy for all things wheeled, including skateboards, scooters, roller and inline skates, bicycles, tricycles, three-wheelers and more.
It’s also not surprising that we tend to crash them into things or ride them where bigger wheels can easily crash into us. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, nearly 400,000 children 19 and under were seen in hospital emergency rooms for biking, skateboard and skating injuries in 2014, while the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported that 61,000 children aged 15 and under went to the ER for non-motorized scooter injuries the year before.
To help parents better understand what types of injuries are most commonly sustained from wheeled activities and how to treat and prevent them, we spoke to John Badylak, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Medical City Alliance.
“I see all types of injuries, including fractures from falls off of wheeled toys, ATVs and exercise equipment,” Dr. Badylak said. “The most common fracture I see in adults and children who have a ground level fall is a distal radius fracture (broken wrist). I also see children with supracondylar humerus fractures, which is a fracture of the humerus bone (broken upper arm bone) just above the elbow.”
In addition to wrist and arm breaks, other common injuries include cuts, bruises, strains and sprains. About half of injuries occur to the arms and wrists, while the other half is split between the head and the legs and feet.
Gan Su, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Arlington, discusses when to go to the ER with a head injury.
Follow these tips to help prevent injuries:
- Wear the approved protective gear for your type of activity (helmets, pads, bright clothing, etc.)
- Wear sturdy, supportive, slip-resistant, close-toed shoes
- Ride on flat, smooth surfaces away from traffic
- Don’t ride at night — most motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians and non-motorized toy/vehicle riders happen between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
- Learn the rules of your chosen activity — take a bike safety class or ask a more experienced child for skateboarding tips
- Learn how to fall safely by landing on fleshy body parts, tucking arms in and rolling
- Never text or talk on the phone while driving anything with wheels
- Always ride in view of caregivers (younger children) or with one or more friends (older kids)
How to tell if a bone is broken.
“Unfortunately, fractures and other injuries happen even with precautions,” said Dr. Badylak. “Every situation and every patient is different. It can be very difficult to know whether an ankle is sprained or broken without an exam by a medical professional and an X-ray. But generally speaking, if an injured individual cannot put weight on a leg to walk or cannot move a joint, he or she should go to the ER to be examined. If a child is not using an arm or leg, then that child should definitely be evaluated by a doctor.”
Michelle Underwood, VP of Emergency Services for Medical City Healthcare, explains when to go the ER with a sprain or fracture.
Treating minor injuries at home.
Dr. Badylak recommends treating minor sprains and bruises with ice, elevation and over the counter anti-inflammatories for swelling and pain. If a minor injury doesn’t get better after a couple of days of rest, seeking medical attention at a doctor’s office or urgent care facility would be wise.
If someone in your family suffers an injury while doing a bit of free-wheeling, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
Find a fast Medical City ER near you.